For the hell of it he searches the web for “quirky” porn and sees his wife in bed with two clowns (actually it is on a haystack). It is her alright, 30-ish years younger. He has seen photos of her at that age. It is my Abby, he thinks, in some sleezeball film about the Big Top called: “Circus Sluts.” He clicks it off. Reflects on time’s often cruel diminishments. A bit like Russian nesting dolls. Each one inside the other—when removed—a smaller version of the one that preceded it.
On Saturdays he volunteers at a local old folks home. Reads from a book of poems to an elderly blind woman who sits in a lawn chair out back. When he gets to a poem by Margaret Atwood, she has him reread the same stanza repeatedly, as she sips her tea and turns dead eyes inward.
“I would like to be the air
that inhabits you for a moment
only. I would like to be that unnoticed
& that necessary.”
The image of one of the clowns, a close-up of sweat running down the greasepaint, intrudes for a ghost-moment and smears the page.
They met as colleagues working at the campus library. Imbroglio was only in some of the books that surrounded them, never a component in their lives together that followed. The closest they came was when he rehearsed lines with her for an acting class she took. That deep and dark voice unlike his own. A character he played. The sex that night, the better for it.
They have a serious ant problem. Columns of black marauders roam from unseen places. Up and down the walls. He suggests they call an exterminator. But she says she can handle it/they can handle it. She carpet-bombs the trails with quick bursts of Windex. “The ammonia,” she says, darting about in an active blur. The ants trickle down in bubbly ruin. Float on fumy rivers. “Have at it,” she says, holding out the spray bottle. When he takes it, she brightens. He pursues each determined column with demonstrative focus—with a big game hunter’s aim and intention. She scans the walls, then grabs back the bottle, and as he points here and there and she responds so eagerly, so robustly, he feels like the air that inhabits her for a moment. That unnoticed. That necessary.
Robert Scotellaro has published widely in journals and anthologies, including W.W. Norton’s Flash Fiction International, NANO Fiction, Gargoyle, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, and many others. Two of his stories were Best Small Fictions winners (2016 and 2017). He is the author of seven literary chapbooks, several books for children, and three full-length flash and micro story collections: Measuring the Distance, What We Know So Far (winner of The Blue Light Book Award), and Bad Motel. He has, along with James Thomas, edited New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction, published by W.W. Norton & Company (August, 2018). Visit him at rsflashfiction.com.